Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Some Great Tips from Mystery Author Betty Webb

Recently, I attended the Public Safety Writers Association's conference where the most wonderful award winning mystery author, Betty Webb, was a keynote speaker and also gave us some marvelous mystery writing tips.

Betty told us how not to begin a mystery novel as well as how to do it. A couple of the how not to begin were with the weather and a dream.

The first page of the novel is a promise to the reader. It should have action, action, action--a crisis not of the main character's own making, and he or she should solve the problem him or herself. The first page better be the best possible.

She said there are two elements to a story: style and structure.

She suggested having a dead body on the first page and another in the middle. It is a good idea to have the detective or sleuth be the one to discover the body.

Tension should build on every page.

A strong arc of action is what sells a book.

Only use one or two sentences for back story.

Another tip was to circle all the "was" or "ing" words and replace with active words.

And the last: “Good books are not written but rewritten.”

Betty told us she writes eight hours a day nearly every day. No wonder she's an award winning writer.

I read her latest Lena Jones mystery, Desert Cut and it's very dark but definitely a page-turner. After that I read the first in her zoo mysteries, Anteater of Death, a totally different type of book, might be considered a cozy though I thought it had more depth than most cozies.

To learn more about the dark Lena Jones mysteries, go to her website.

For the funny Gunn Zoo mysteries, click here. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Marilyn Meredith is the author of over twenty-five published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Kindred Spirits from Mundania Press. Under the name of F. M. Meredith she writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series; No Sanctuary is the newest from Oak Tree Press.

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  1. Thanks for sharing what you learned. Sounds like she gave really good advice.

    I'm glad you talked about her two series. I had heard of the Zoo series before and meant to check them out, then forgot. My son used to work at a zoo and I thought he might like those.

    Straight From Hel

  2. Great advice from Betty.

    Writing 8 hours a day! Wow. Even if I had the time to do that, I'm not sure I'd have the stamina!

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  3. I wish I had eight hours a day to write, but I'm sure I'd spend half of that procrastinating. ;)

    This mystery series has been very helpful to my for my current work. Thanks!

  4. Thanks for this. I would like to write one of these kinds of straight-forward mysteries next. The one I'm doing now breaks every rule here but I'm going to finish it first.

  5. Thanks for sharing these tips, Marilyn. It's always good to get advice from a writer like Betty.

  6. Like so many of the things I find here, this, too, is great information. Maybe I should start a BRP notebook. Print the posts, and simply refer to them as needed. Be much cheaper than giving Amazon my money.

    Best regards, Galen

    Imagineering Fiction Blog

  7. So far, Betty only has one Zoo mystery, but it's worth reading.

    I don't write 8 hours a day either--and there are exceptions for Betty, I know, after all she did attend the PSWA conference and I've seen her at others, and I know she volunteers at her local zoo. I think her point is that she writes a set number of hours as regularly as possible.

    Marilyn a.k.a. F. M. Meredith


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